Eric Holmes came out on top after a race-long duel with David Mayhew to win the Toyota/NAPA Auto Parts 150 in NASCAR K&N Pro Series action Saturday night in front of a capacity crowd at All American Speedway.
Holmes, out of Escalon, Calif., celebrated his 36th birthday in style by winning the race from the pole position, his first Coors Light Pole Award of the season, while inching closer to his third series title.
With the win, Holmes extended his lead in the championship standings to 156 points. With that margin, all he will need to do is take the green flag in the season finale at Phoenix to secure another championship, to go with the ones he won in 2006 and 2008.
Holmes pulled away from Mayhew, who finished second, for the final time on a Lap 144 restart to collect his fifth win of the season and the 14th of his series career. It also was his third win at the Roseville track. Holmes and Mayhew exchanged the lead multiple times and spent a good portion of the night side by side.
“That was an awesome race with David Mayhew,” Holmes said. “That was a lot of fun. We just had to worry about some of those lappers and stuff going on, but man that was great side-by-side short track racing right there. I just can’t thank David enough for racing me so clean. I’m proud to race against that guy.”
Although he had such a fast car, Holmes struggled at one point early in the race.
“By far, I think we had pretty much the best car,” he said. “After one of those greens my car wouldn’t come in. I think the track was still oiled down and we all slipping and sliding and those two got by me. I was just trying to be patient. I knew I had a good car and I knew I could get it at the end. It was getting tough to decide inside or outside on them restarts and I just decided just to take the outside. It’s tough calling clear down there in Turn 3, but I just gave him the room every lap and just made sure I got off them corners.”
The race up front resulted in 10 lead changes among three drivers. But while Holmes and Mayhew fought a thrilling battle back and forth for the lead, a war raged behind them that resulted in nine cautions for 61 laps and left crumpled race cars bearing the battle scars of tough short track.
“It was good racing with Eric, but we needed to be on the outside and obviously he knew that too and took the outside the last couple a restarts,” said Mayhew. “If we could get up on the outside of him, we could after four or five laps take the lead and start driving away but he could do the same thing when we were stuck on the bottom. It was just a good, clean run with Eric. I just wish some of the guys in the back could have calmed down a little bit so we could have some little bit longer green flag runs.”
Local driver Eric Schmidt, in his first series start this season, finished third. Paulie Harraka, who was looking for his third straight victory at All American finished fourth followed by Juan Pitta, who was making his series debut. Luis Martinez Jr., Jonathan Gomez, Moses Smith, Jason Bowles and Jacob Gomes rounded out the top 10. Gomes, who was making his series debut led early – but spun while trying to maneuver through traffic.
The Toyota/NAPA Auto Parts 150 will air on SPEED on Thursday, Oct. 21 at 6 p.m. ET.
The NASCAR K&N Pro Series West will close out its 2010 campaign on Saturday, Nov. 13 in the 3 Amigos Tequila 125 at Phoenix (Ariz.) International Raceway.